A personal journey, meeting someone who'd change my life forever, and falling in love with my craft, again.
The Lost Films were somewhat of a revelation to me. I think the idea started quite spontaneously as a matter of fact upon my new-found French friend Caitlin's inaugural visit to London. I had met her and her family during a visit with the family we were staying with and both their families are connected by my godfather in terms of relations - the way in which Caitlin and I met was such a random occasion. I wasn't going to kid myself, I was nervous to meet her, being slowly nudged to introduce myself in such a casual manner considering we were swimming in a lake in the south of France half way between our villa and their family home.
We met, and I told her all about myself, what it is I do - yadder yadder... all the details and I could see the increasing grin on her face and her eyes lit up with such enthusiasm and interest I was keen to talk even more and when she responded with the things she was doing I was in such awe and excitement. She was clearly very bright, and also very creative and was telling me about a short film she had created recently entitled 24 Hours In Paris. I was keen to this piece so upon going back to the villa we were staying at, where her and her family followed us in their car, she showed it to me on my laptop and I was blown away at the creativity that had just unfolded before me. I loved the combination of imagery with sound and how she has captured Paris from a totally different perspective. The film could have been rather touristy and quite bland in the feelings and substance it carries but it was anything but that. I was screaming internally that we ought to do a collaboration together and that it'd be amazing because of how passionate we both are about the same thing but then I'm sure I must have muttered something like a little word or part of a sentence because she glanced at me peculiarly for a second or two. Maybe I let my thoughts take a hold of my vocal cords. The creative vibes were strong.
Do you know when you meet someone and you have that brief 'lightning flash' moment of euphoria that you deep down know full well you're going to be friends with them for life? I had that. And I hadn't experienced that since the first week of my new college - where me and my best friend found each other. So I was alarmed, in a good way of course, that this was someone who I should definitely watch out for and see prosper as time goes by.
So, I should probably cut to the chase and I'm sure the above could have been summarised in fewer words. As you can probably tell I'm writing this in a passionate moment of nostalgia late one Sunday night. I've just released the second half of the Lost series earlier on in the day, Lost in Vidauban, but before we get to that, let's continue the story in chronological order.
It was August 2015 and it was apparent Caitlin was flying on her own to come to London, I had been communicating with her mum and discussing plans and things, as her original intention was to stay just out of London with her Aunt who'd look after her. But of course, she hasn't been to London in years in recent memory I remember her telling me so I was determined to make her trip to London the best experience it possibly could have so she stayed with me and my mum in London so she was able to do lots of cool outings with me and see her London friends she had arranged to meet, without having to travel in so far by train each day, arriving into Waterloo, half of her pocket money would have easily been depleted knowing how awfully expensive national rail fares can be.
At this point may I just remind you that there was no plan to make a film out of this whole adventure, this only came about on the very last day of her stay in London when we were browsing through all the photos and videos we had. Although I did text her before she flew saying that we should film our meeting up from a two-camera perspective from each protagonist - in a way like in Sofia Coppola's 2003 film Lost in Translation (a big inspiration, most certainly for the title to say the least). That comes across in the edit if you've seen the finished version of Lost In London most definitely.
So that's what we did, she was due to come in early in the morning on a Saturday I think it was (or possibly a weekday I can't remember precisely) but it was definitely a UK school holidays of some sort, hence why it was perfectly timed with her being able to stay over for a good amount of time, I picked her up around 8am from Waterloo Station, her train had pulled in and I was running to meet her, very keen - sunglasses on since it was at the height of summer, I wanted to look cool but then I realised if she doesn't see my whole face she wouldn't recognise me. But then again my height gives me away, I had filmed the meetup on continuous record from when I was walking across the river right till we met, none of it was scripted nor planned. Even when I filmed the opening scene where we met and hugged, it all happened in that very moment without any hesitation or realisation a camera was even there. I don't think i could have ever pictured it differently - it was a perfect moment.
I'll let the film do most of the talking in terms of what we got up to, but I'll talk a bit about the things which surrounded the film - the things that you won't know from watching the film of course. Production Context, if you will. In terms of how I felt at the time, i was definitely at a point in time where I was lost - emotionally. My last ex at the time had cheated on me and dumped me only recently, well towards the end of the academic year so May but that affected me right throughout summer. I don't often admit my insecurities but i was quite affected by it. The holiday in France, which actually led to this inevitable production happening - otherwise if we hadn't had met which if you ask Caitlin we so easily couldn't have - was definitely a major distraction for me and I forgot about the past albeit for brief pockets of time.
There was something about Caitlin I couldn't (and still can't) quite put my finger on, I think the emotions kicked in when the film was complete and she had flown back to England. We are friends, relatives too actually but there was something purely platonic and fulfilling about being in her company and having fun around town together. It's like the way we feel about watching Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost In Translation, especially towards the end - yet again I reference the film you must excuse me. She definitely made me feel special, we still talk lots, she's a big part of my life and I hope that she sees that, she has the brightest of futures ahead and comes from a lovely family.
We had spent a whole day looking through the all the 'dailies' of film rushes we've accumulated from our three devices, her iPhone, my iPhone and her SLR camera, of which on all three devices - so much footage was accumulated. It totted up to a ridiculous amount of gigabytes. So i knew we'd have some fun looking through what we got. We chatted and laughed in my room / editing station, and checked out the content, including photographs too. Caitlin is an aspiring photographer & filmmaker and generally quite the creative virtuoso at more than just a couple things - just recently she sent me a new music track she worked on and I was quite impressed.
It made sense to me for me to have her on screen penned as Director because although it was our film together, I had only kickstarted something that without her - none of this would have been possible and it was her guidance actually that meant we could make something quite magical. I'd be keen to ask if she remembers but she actually had many great ideas for the inevitable sequences that you, the audience, would then go on to see in the finished film - based on the footage we had of course. As the actual construction of the film didn't begin until we finished getting all the footage and then realised we had a film on our hands - not the other way around as it normally is.
She told me in a conversation a while ago, preceding all of this, that her favourite film of all time was Palo Alto by Gia Coppola. I hadn't even heard of it which was surprising because I'm quite adept with the independent film scene. She showed me the film and we sat in the living room late, after a nice meal out to Five Guys. Best burger joint in the culinary world, I'm telling you that. You can even see a small extract of the film where the film's star, Emma Roberts, is out next to the soccer field having a cheeky cigarette by the fence with the film's score playing. I also used this for our film too - Scoreception?. Having a couple additional tracks for pivotal part of the film where music worked well with the imagery from the likes of Caitlin's favourite band - The 1975 and a duo I had admired for some time, Daft Punk.
There were various edits made of Lost In London with both of us contributing segments to the film but then scrapping them because they weren't quite right or something was missing or just from a frustrating day at college or work coincidentally the mindset wasn't quite there. I finished an edit that i sent to Caitlin and she loved it, I loved it too but was nervous to send it - because well, it was integral she loved it and it reminded her of how she felt being here and I guess made her sad too. I was reminded again that she wasn't here, and I became a little sad too. Remember, none of the film was scripted nor planned, apart from our day's outings of course. So everything you see is entirely genuine. And that's why I feel so connected to this piece - it's one of my most personal pieces that I've worked on.
The film's ending is especially sad, it was quite stressful - I don't know how well that comes across, but I certainly found it stressful. The slow-motion sequences were handled particularly well I felt, if anything these were the only planned parts, not in terms of inevitable content but in terms of a willingness to wanting to shoot using a high frame rate. Caitlin looks to camera for one of the final times and frowns, maybe slightly exaggeratively but in a youthful way because she doesn't want to go. This was our final goodbye, in the place that we met on home soil. London Waterloo Station, a place that many people come and go, all day everyday. Many encounters happen, and the slow motion sequence there especially with the overlay dissolve of two overlapping images of people just goes to show the amount of people and the whirlwind of hustle and bustle one can be caught in - it's so easy to lose people and forget where you are, as you might easily become disorientated. I think both of us left the station, one on train outbound, the other bound on foot, feeling stronger, more determined people but reminiscent of each other's missing presence, if you catch my drift. Even somewhat loosely.
Jump to May 2016, for ages now as a thank you for looking after Caitlin, her mum has been nagging me to go to the South of France to stay with them. Now, I kept assuring her that It was my absolute pleasure. She was so lovely and insisting on me coming and I know I couldn't say no. But I did because I was too polite, even though I was the right level of politeness I think in that situation? I didn't want to impose on their family space, as tempting as the offer sounded and of course being in the same sunshine as Cannes, I was conflicted. Caitlin & her family earlier in March, I think it was, had flown to London to stay on a family holiday which was nice and I managed to see all of them, albeit in separate instances because of their plans. Caitlin went to see The 1975 play at Brixton's O2 Academy which must have been good. Can you imagine being 15 and seeing your favourite band of all time up front close and personal with fans who love the same thing as you do? I bet it was awesome. So jumping back to April I gave Caitlin's mum my next free holidays and flights were literally booked there and then - the quickest I've ever had flights sorted out for me, and I was super excited. Not only that, I was going right in the thick of the Cannes Film Festival and was so excited to go!
I think I had maybe overthought filming of the next instalment, well I intended to make a film just as good as Lost In London and it's working title was already set to be Lost In Vidauban at the time, though that was a thing that was at times heavily discussed when wandering and meandering through the melting point that was Cannes with Caitlin during our celebrity scouting on the Croisette. I definitely concentrated on having more of a holiday and adventure than filming, I just wanted a simple getaway. To be with family and friends, in a hot country and new location - in other words, I don't think I gave the filming much attention so I ended up saying to myself most nights there that I needed to somehow accumulate more footage but ended up being distracted by whatever it is I was doing. Definitely a sense of underwhelming that I had hyped up a conjuring up of Lost In London when in reality it was going to end up completely different which it did. Among the release yesterday as a matter of fact of Lost In Vidauban, the same people who had watched Lost In London thought completely differently of this new instalment, with one calling it an 'melancholic but revitalising art piece'.
In all honesty, I loved both pieces, but I there were a few things I didn't like about Lost in Vidauban that caused me to become quite peeved about but I was determined not to scrap it, but to finish it and perhaps that why internally just by myself it was more of a struggle to squeeze the best from the limited footage there was available that was usable, a huge contrast from the overwhelming excess of footage accumulated during Caitlin's trip over here to London. So perhaps I don't feel the same way audiences do about Lost In Vidauban the entire way just because of the editing process. But my love for it is slowly growing back as I'm starting to see things which excite me more, when I re-watch it upon showing it to different groups of friends & family for the first times.
Lost In Vidauban was perhaps indeed a more melancholic art piece than an inadvertently emotional adventurous sprawl that it's London counterpart proved. Definitely it was part of my ritualistic welcome on the night I arrived, since in this film it starts at Night as that's when I arrived, that I was greeted with Caitlin's Palo Alto vinyl, yes the real deal - with the song 'Champagne Coast' playing by indie band, Blood Orange. I definitely think Caitlin is a connoisseur of indie bands and her music taste is cultured. Between September - October of the previous year we were half of a radio show collective called The Wake Up Crew where the Blood Orange track played would be the show's intro theme for. This was unintentional but it reminded me of that when it was played so thought I'd just slot that in there since that's a part of our developing friendship adventure. The radio show formed of myself, Caitlin and two others ran for 30 episodes and was predominantly recorded banter of us aired out live of a skype conversation about our daily musings and jokes.
I wanted to give this film particularly the film look so I added some significant in-edit camera grain on the regular shots, and even shot specific sequences of the film on Digital 8mm (with a special industry-grade film app) that helps to replicate the celluloid look without ever having to buy stock. Like in Lost In London, we were travelling quite a lot, constantly moving. Definitely much more in this film, it seems like a greater distance was travelled - most certainly, a lot of time was spent on the trains between the local station (I say Local but its actually a major station on the network which I was surprised at a little), and Cannes and Nice Ville stations. In one part, I chose to record using the selfie cam of us on the train, because I wanted to replicate what we did on the tube with our resting bitch faces. Caitlin remembered that because she actually says "...like in the tube". Palm Dreams, a collection of imagery from Lost in Vidauban edited against the backdrop of Arcade Fire's original score for Her, is the prologue for the main feature - also doubling as a reference point with an intent to bridge the gap between the two main Lost films. I think perhaps the short video piece, managed to get a bit lost too, but it all adds to the beauty.
I sometimes think, if we hadn't had met that summers day last year, none of this would happened, and I couldn't imagine what my life would turn out to be - because of this one person.